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State's teacher supply plummets

Louis Freedberg

The number of Californians seeking to become teachers has plummeted by 45 percent over a seven year period – even as student enrollments are projected to rise by 230,000 over the next decade and as many as 100,000 teachers are expected to retire.

Teaching is clearly becoming a less and less desirable profession for Californians. The number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs has declined from 77,705 in 2001-02 to 42,245 in 2008-09, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.  

Those dismal figures are paralleled by an ever smaller number of teachers getting their teaching credentials in California – from 24,149 in 2004-05 to 17,797 in 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. 

A report issued today by the Center for Future of Teaching and Learning warned about the brewing crisis:

The disinvestment in building a top quality teacher workforce is at odds with rising demands for students' academic success. The fiscal crisis has so severely damaged the pipeline for recruiting and training new teachers that teaching quality may be put at risk for many years to come.

Who will teach our children? That question is rarely asked in the current cacophony of voices, from President Obama's on down, demanding more of teachers, and threatening them with dismissal or replacement if they are unable to close the enduring achievement gap that separates poor, mostly black and Latino students from their more affluent, largely white peers.

"The report puts its finger on a more urgent problem than the need to push out the very small number of teachers who are not as good as we would like them to be, and that is where we are going to get the best quality teachers in our schools that we will need in the future," Richard Zeiger, chief of staff to incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, told California Watch. (Torlakson along with other education leaders will be at UCLA today at a forum on education finances hosted by Gov.-elect Jerry Brown.)

But as Zeiger points out, "the problem from a political standpoint is that it is very hard to pivot from the notion that we are currently laying off teachers to having to prepare for a new batch of teachers in the future."

There are multiple reasons for the declining appeal of teaching to Californians, said Patrick Shields, director of research for SRI International, which conducted the research for the report. Principle among them are horrendous "market forces" that have led to 30,000 teachers being laid off in California over the last two years alone – with novice teachers being the most likely to have gotten their walking papers.

Adding to the pipeline problem are budget cuts to the California State University system, which awards half of all teacher credentials in the state, and which has had to cap enrollments in teacher training programs.

The impact of other factors is harder to pinpoint, such as the intense pressures on teachers to increase test scores under No Child Left Behind over the past decade, and more recent moves to link teacher evaluation to test scores of students.

Because of budget cuts, teachers are expected to do more with less, typically teaching in larger classes, with fewer counseling and other staff to help out with hard-to-teach children. All this comes on top of reductions in salaries and benefits in the form of unpaid furlough days, increased health care premiums, and other cost-saving measures. 

"Teachers are coping with lower compensation, fewer resources and increasing expectations of student achievement," said Shields. "It is a reasonable expectation that a college sophomore or junior might think 'I might not even get a job, so perhaps I should look for another career.'" 

Under normal economic conditions, with rising student enrollments and more teacher retirements, districts would hire more teachers to fill the need. But these are not normal times. Because of shrinking revenues, school districts may simply decide to raise class sizes rather than hire new teachers, said Shields, a trend that is already underway across the state.

The Center for Teaching and Learning report concludes this way: "Put simply, the California teacher workforce faces a critical tension between expectations and resources."  


California Comission on Teacher Credentialing


Filed under: K–12, Daily Report


Comments are closed for this story.
oceansidemom's picture
I know firsthand that many colleges are swaying people towards health care / law enforcement instead of teaching which is a shame. Weren't there approx.15,000 teachers layed off last year. Many of the Pre-schools and daycares here are full of "would be " teachers who cannot find jobs anywhere. It's a shame to think that you would go to school for years and never be able to find work in a school here. Another thing I have heard alot is that the schools hire young people right out of high school for over $17.00 an hour as aides & yet the people who have been aides are making much less then that. Very discouraging ! I was disgusted to be advised by the school board that my youngest child has a much larger vocabulary then the other households here in san diego so there is no room for him in Kinder. The parents around here are getting disgusted with the schools & the no child left behind act that lets the schools lower testing for higher scores. Teaching is suppose to help children learn not dumb them down.
Allen Osborn's picture
The primary problem regarding teachers and teaching in California is unionization. Unions put a premium on protecting entrenched "older" teachers with by insisting on using seniority to determine who stays and gets laid off. If California had common sense right-to-work laws the unions wouldn't be able to financially (and otherwise) break our school systems. (If districts could get rid of bad teachers would we be debating how to evaluate teachers?) I believe that most of these older teachers are good teachers who bring experience to class every day. However school districts could hire multiple young teachers for the same price as one older, retirement aged teacher if they had the power to retire teachers when they reach retirement age thus lowering class sizes. I know this isn't the most pleasant topic for our experienced teachers but we can't effectively teach when our class sizes are huge. The union where I teach in Riverside (RCTA) is actively negotiating another round of layoffs to protect older dues payers, putting more stress on our students, their parents, administrators, and remaining teachers. Teachers provide a service, and teachers’ unions think that service it to themselves. By encouraging older teachers to retire California could keep opportunities open for our young people wanting to enter the teaching field. As it is now college undergrads know there are no jobs in education so why pursue it as a career. We should also keep in mind that retired teachers get paychecks, laid-off and unemployed teachers don't. Another way we could stem the tide of dwindling teacher supply is to make some common sense changes in the way teachers are trained/taught in our universities. Every state has its own way of training teachers but California's is nonsensical. University students should be able to major in education as an undergraduate, and by the time they graduate (in 4 years) they should have had all their ED classes, student teaching, and passed the various tests. (CBEST, CSET, RICA, etc.) Currently students who want to be teachers have to waste their time majoring in something/anything else, (obviously secondary teachers should major in whatever subject they want to teach) then they graduate, apply to a credentialing program and take more classes (completion of this does not mean earning a master's degree), do your student teaching, take your tests, then you can teach. This takes 5+ years to complete which is ridiculous. Why would anyone subject themselves to such ridiculousness? Teachers are being taken advantage of by the university systems to keep them in school longer than they need to be. Of course this would not be the case if it weren't for the university unions driving such nonsensical policies.
steveod's picture
One thing is certain, just like Prop 13 was a cure worse than the illness, breaking the teacher unions will be a feel-good moment for some, but not fix the schools. If you did away with tenure laws tomorrow, you will still going to have a hard time attracting good young teachers to all the charter schools you build. More work, longer hours, less pay and no job security--what is the attraction there? Minimum wage workers may not have an option when it comes to that kind of a job; kids in college will go back for another degree and look for something else. Yes, we do need to change the rules and keep the best teachers when layoffs hit, but the current national attack on teacher unions is only going to result in three things: teacher push back (already starting to happen), a shortage of high caliber teachers, and third, an increase in the disparity between low income/high minority and urban schools, and the suburban schools. The suburbs will bid higher for teachers, as they do now, and the inner cities will end up with the dregs. We are trying to fix the problem with the wrong solution. The highest correlation between student success is with family income. Unless we address poverty in a systemic way, we will continue to save a few poor kids while seeing the vast majority of low income kids fail or drop out.

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